Chapter 1 ‘Take off that mute, do!’ cried Louisa, snatching her fingers from the piano keys, and turning abruptly to the violinist. Helena looked slowly from her music. ‘My dear Louisa,’ she replied, ‘it would be simply unendurable.’ She stood tapping her white skirt with her bow in a kind of a pathetic forbearance. ‘But I can’t understand it,’ cried Louisa, bouncing on her chair with the exaggeration of one who is indignant with a beloved. ‘It is only lately you would even submit to muting your violin. At one time you would have refused flatly, and no doubt about it.’ ‘I have only lately submitted to many things,’ replied Helena, who seemed weary and stupefied, but still sententious. Louisa drooped from her bristling defiance. ‘At any rate,’ she said, scolding in tones too naked with love, I don’t like it.’ ‘Go on from Allegro,’ said Helena, pointing with her bow to the place on Louisa’s score of the Mozart sonata. Louisa obediently took the chords, and the music continued. A young man, reclining in one of the wicker arm-chairs by the fire, turned luxuriously from the girls to watch the flames poise and dance with the music. He was evidently at his ease, yet he seemed a stranger in the room.